19 Apr Oxytocin: The Bridge Between Human Connection and Happiness
When’s the last time you hugged someone? Do you remember how you felt after hugging them? Warm, fuzzy, and maybe even a little euphoric? It might be funny to call “warm and fuzzy” feelings a scientific phenomenon, but the truth is that it is! The secret to those warm and fuzzy feelings lies in a hormone called oxytocin.
Oxytocin Is Your Secret Weapon
Also known as the “love hormone,” oxytocin is a neuropeptide, hormone, and in some cases, even a medication. It’s related to sex, social bonding, and childbirth and has a lot to do with how close we feel to other people. When the hormone is released in your body, you feel happier, more relaxed, less anxious, and less scared. It’s one of nature’s most powerful medications, and with the right knowledge, it can be one of your most powerful tools as well.
But before I dig into how you can up your oxytocin levels, let’s look at exactly what it can do. The hormone has long been associated with the mother-child bonding experience. In fact, one recent study found that mother seals who spent more time with their pups had higher concentrations of the hormone in their bodies! And that’s not all – oxytocin can also decrease your subjective experience of pain! The hormone has even been implicated as a social lubricant – a study published in Nature found that a nasal spray containing oxytocin made social interactions easier and less stressful for autistic children.
“Recent research suggests that, in addition to being necessary for pair bonds, oxytocin helps with everything from healing burns, to strokes, high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney malfunctions, schizophrenia, and autism. In case it isn’t obvious: These are ailments that seem to have little in common with each other, making oxytocin a remarkable panacea.” – Seth Porges, Forbes.com
Ready, Aim, Fire Up Your Oxytocin
Now you know how the “love hormone” can benefit your life; the next step is finding activities to increase its concentration in your body. To increase levels of the hormone in your own body, focus on low-investment, high-reward activities. Something as simple as a hug would be a perfect way to increase your own body’s oxytocin!
Other activities that will increase you body’s concentration of the hormone include sharing a meal with someone, giving (and receiving) gifts, and using social media. Yes, using Facebook will increase your oxytocin! At least now you have an excuse, right? If you prefer more solo activities, try interacting with a pet for a few minutes every day, taking a walk, or watching something that will make you laugh.
Investing just a few minutes doing these activities can leave oxytocin coursing through your body for hours afterward.
At the end of the day, if you’re feeling blue, remember that your body has all of the tools you need to make you feel better and keep you smiling. Instead of turning to the bottle or a bottle of pills, turn to a family member, a friend, or even Facebook! To learn more about how oxytocin can help you smile more, check out How to Design a Life Worth Smiling About. Thanks for reading!